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tv   CNN Tonight  CNN  December 31, 2009 7:00pm-7:33pm EST

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berlin walls. hot shots, pictures worth a thousand words. i'm suzanne malveaux in "the situation room." have a great new year's eve. tonight, the cia under fire and under attack. a suicide bomber kills seven agents in afghanistan. the agency vows it will get its revenge. president obama gets some answers. how was security so badly breached? a jetliner this close to being blown out of the sky. who dropped the ball? more importantly, could it happen again? times square filling up for the big new year's eve bash. up to a million party-goers expected in the big apple. security a major concern. the annual ball drop in the big apple just a few hours away.
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good evening and thanks so much for joining us on this new year's eve. i'm john roberts. >> i'm kyra phillips. happy new year's to all of you. complete coverage of celebrations all around the world and we count down to our special live coverage from times square as we all ring in the new year together. we begin tonight, though, with serious questions about security in afghanistan. the taliban is claiming credit for a suicide bombing that killed seven cia employees, including the cia's chief of post there. the big question tonight, how did a suicide bomber get deep inside a fortified military base near the border with pakistan? the cia says the attacks will be avenged. chris lawrence reports now on one of the deadliest days in the history of the cia. >> reporter: unlike their military counterparts in afghanistan, cia workers serve in the shadows, their names unknown to most americans. some gather intelligence. others analyze the intel or
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recruit afghans to the american side. now seven are dead, six wounded, and a u.s. intelligence official is promising revenge quote, this attack will be avenged through successful, aggressive, counterterrorism operations. on wednesday, a single suicide bomber got on to this american base in eastern afghanistan. a u.s. official described it as a crucial base where the cia monitored the pakistani border and conducted intelligence operations. >> even going back as far as 2004, choeft was a very active forward base. >> reporter: cnn contributor fran toundzened visited the base. she says it was targeted because it's not a military base. >> i believe that this was a very deliberate strategy on the part of the taliban to push back on president obama's strategy to increase the number of civilians and increase the civilian
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component. >> reporter: president obama recently announced a civilian surge to train more forces and improve living conditions in afghanistan. thursday, he wrote a letter to all cia workers honoring those who died and telling others, quote, your triumphs and even your names may be unknown to your fellow americans, but your service is deeply appreciated. >> now, the taliban claim that they got an afghan army soldier to put on a suicide vest and he blew himself up inside the american base. now, if he was really wearing an afghan army uniform, investigators are going to have to determine whether it was stolen or, even worse, whether this really was an afghan army soldier secretly working for the taliban. >> that would certainly be troubling. chris lawrence for us tonight. in a few minutes' time, gary bernson, a former cia officer and jack rice will join us to talk about the security situation in afghanistan and
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what's being done about the intelligence failures that led to the attempted bombing of that detroit-bound airliner on christmas day. president obama got his first preliminary report on the intelligence failures that led to that attempted attack. systematic failure is how the president described them. as you know, he's still on vacation in hawaii and has ordered a full review of the nation's anti-terrorism policies. ed henry is in honolulu with the president. what have you learned? >> reporter: well, kyra, new information today. the president has gotten some of those preliminary findings from his various agency chiefs about what went wrong. top aides are saying two big themes are emerging. number one, that they have to do something to overhaul the so-called terrorist watch list. clearly, this is somebody, a suspect that probably should have been on the no-fly list but wasn't. they realize they've got to make big changes to that. secondly, they're also wondering why cia officials got some information about this eventual suspect, suggesting he had extremist ties, yet the information was not shared around the government.
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could have helped prevent this attack. sort of a pre-9/11 mentality. we're told by top white house aides the president is not going to tolerate that. in fact, next tuesday he's going to have the various chiefs in. the head of the cia, the head of the director of national intelligence when he gets back to washington from this hawaiian vacation. a big meeting in the white house situation room on tuesday. sort of call some of these officials on the carpet but also, more importantly, try to find ways to learn from these mistakes and fix it so that the american people are more safe. along those lines, we've learned today as well the department of homeland security has dispatched top aides to various airports around the world. they're going to be touring asia, europe, south america, africa, and try to come up with some better international cooperation with some of these airports to make sure that on these u.s.-bound flights they've got the same kind of screening procedures, same kind of tight security that's supposed to go on that clearly was not happening from amsterdam to detroit, kyra. >> i realize what we were
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talking about had a serious aspect to it but i have to make the turn here to your background and what i'm seeing behind you. it's like you're starring in beach blanket babylon. you have new friends i see picking up surfing there in honolulu. >> clearly. well, it's going to be a quiet new year's eve for the president and first lady. we're told they'll celebrate with friends on kialua, the other side of owe yahoo. he took his daughters to aftera "star." the white house press corps will be here, fireworks over waikiki beach. i know you think this is a boondoggle but i've been working hard. i'm going out in the water, i don't care. >> he really is doing it. wait, can we stay on that shot just a little longer? i want to actually see ed ride the big board. >> maybe we can come back. >> yes, ed? >> i'm going to have to get on there. i'm going to have to get on there sooner or later or you're going to call me on it. >> you're darn right we are. i'm looking for a follow-up.
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happy new year, ed. >> happy new year to him. there's not a lot of security on the beach in honolulu but a lot in times square for tonight's new year's celebrations. preparations for the famous ball drop are in full swing this year. thousands of uniformed and plainclothed police officers are on duty to protect the revelers in the largest new year's eve party in the country. i know someone who always knows how to find a big party. that's cnn's don lemon in the heart of times square. he doesn't have a surfboard like ed henry but he has plenty of other things to have fun with. >> reporter: what are you talking about, kyra, party? me? i'm a choir boy. you know that. kyra, john, i want to show you this. this is a beautiful shot. we have other shots but look how pretty this is right down times square. we're told by the times square alliance about a million people are here so far, and they expect even more. so it could be a million plus folks showing up here in times square. security are saying not to worry about it.
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the police commission ray kelly has been speaking to the media saying don't worry about it. they started battening down the hatches here earlier in the week. 3:00 today they closed traffic off. 6:00 everything was putt on lockdown. anybody who wants to come out here has to be put in a pen. once you're inside of that pen, you can't leave. if you have to go out and go to the bathroom, you have to go through security again and be put in another pen. so no alcohol, no backpacks, no nothing. especially, john and kyra, no shenanigans. there are bomb-sniffing dogs out here, counterterrorism, plain clothed officers. they won't say how many but a robust presence of new york city police officers and others out here watching all of this. but it's a beautiful night. 32 degrees. john, you're not here. kyra, you're not here. it was snowing earlier today, so you got to miss that lovely snow which is now slush on the streets of new york. back to you. it will be a fun time, though, but they're hoping everybody will be safe and nothing will happen here tonight. we hope so.
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>> as a matter of fact, they did get a chance to enjoy the snow earlier today. hour and a half long delay at laguardia airport while i was waiting for my flight to take off. >> he's not complaining, though. he's happy he's here and happy for the celebration, new york or not, right, don? >> reporter: that's good. last night, john, i had an hour delay. so no big deal. it was sleeting in atlanta. i finally made it here. we crossed sort of going this way. so we kind of traded places. and you're sitting next to my old partner there. i can't see you. are you on the right side, in the same spot? >> i'm in the same spot. hurry back, don. come on. >> have a great time. >> reporter: have fun tonight. good to talk to you. thanks a lot. >> keep it safe. londoners have running in 2010. around the world people are already celebrating the new year or waiting for the clock to strike midnight. josh levs is following all the action and with us now. how's it looking? >> hey, guys, i have the coolest new video to show you. we're going to take a look at this. it's from london. it's just come in. let's go right to it. london.
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i love it. this is one of the hottest new fireworks for new year's in all of europe. look at that. we're looking at the london eye there that is the huge ferris wheel now the hot place to be. you can see how exciting all that is. now we're going over to sydney. what we're seeing here is what is considered the biggest fireworks display for the entire world on new year's. and sydney spends 15 months preparing this. it takes 12 computers just to send out all the signals to shoot those off. this is the sydney harbor bridge. it keeps going and going and going. it's obviously cost millions and
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millions of dollars. they were able to get it high enough that more than a million people in sydney could actually see that display. we've got another one for you now. take a look at earlier today. let's go over to taiwan. such a happy day. i'm loving these videos. we're looking at taipei, taiwan. all the celebrations, all the people out there in the streets who are just filling the streets. you know what, guys. it's been a very good day. take a look at all of this. not everyone can be in a major city, not everyone able to see one of these exciting things going on, right? so how about this? we're going to take a look now at some things happening in at least one example. how about standing underneath 11,000 rubber balls in roanoke, virginia. take a look at that. you can't be at the big ball. how about 11,000 rubber balls. you have people with umbrellas. this is a science museum in roanoke. they say it's educational for
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kids because you get to learn about gravity. every year, more and more people turn out. the science museum in roanoke, virginia. i'm loving this. i'll be back next hour with even more of the best, greatest and most unusual ways of celebrating the new year's, guys. >> looking forward to that. the sydney harbor bridge, wow. >> don thinks he has a good gig in new york. i think i'm digging sydney. you about i don't need a lesson in rubber balls. >> we're just around the corner to the georgia dome for the volunteers/virginia tech game. that would be a good way to celebrate, too. stay with us all night on cnn. our special new year's eve coverage continues throughout the evening. anderson cooper and kathy griffin will be here. text your new year's eve wishes to ac 360. or find us on twitter at anderson cooper. also coming up, a tragedy in afghanistan and one narrowly
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averted in detroit. we're going to talk to two former cia agents about fixing our intelligence agencies. and from an historic inauguration to all the juicy scandals. we're going to take a look back at this year in politics. also, back to the streets in the big apple. crowds counting down in times square for the big historic ball drop how can rice production in india,
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there's some soul searching going on at the cia after two major events -- a suicide attack that killed seven cia employees in afghanistan and now criticism over the failed christmas day airline bombing. >> joining us to dig deeper on this, former cia special agent and nationally syndicated talk show host jack rice and guaranty bernsen, author of the book "jaw
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breaker." he was in tora bora in december in 2001 in the hunt for bin laden. gary, when i reached out earlier today to ask if you would join it, you said you'd make time to be here. why did you want to be here? >> of course having the largest loss of cia lives since 1983, i thought it appropriate that someone who had spent their life in the clandestine service would be here at least to state to other members of that service and their families how sorry we are for the loss of those officers of the clandestine service and to recognize the sacrifice that they made during their careers to keep the united states safe. >> who are these people, gary, and what were they doing in afghanistan? >> the individuals of course everyone says cia, but in fact they're members of the clandestine service. and people talk about leon panetta being the country's lead spy. he's not in fact. the lead spy is the head of the clandestine service, a man who spent 30 years of his life
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serving all around the globe, working undercover and fighting this nation's enemies. those men and women who died there in khost today were on the afghan/pak border collecting intelligence against the most dangerous groups we face, taliban and al qaeda. and sadly, of course, there was a breach of the facility in which they were serving and they lost their lives because of that breach. >> so, jack, in light of what gary just said, i mean, these are members of the clandestine service. these are highly trained unique agents. this is a huge victory for the enemy. what does it tell us about the bad guy? what does it tell us about this war and the way it's being fought? >> this is an incredibly dangerous place. i'm just back from afghanistan. i was in a lot of fobs around the country itself. it shows their sophistication and their capability. this wasn't just going after anybody. clearly they made a decision to go at this particular fob. i mean, my impression is let's
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go after cia guys, let's go after d.o. guys, operations people. and they did this very successfully. this talks about capability. and that's really something we need to contemplate as we move forward. >> i was just going to say, how do you fight that? you and i, john, were talking about advanced ied warfare, advanced warfare in general in afghanistan and iraq. so you see an attack like this. how do you prevent another one? these are agents that these type of guys shouldn't even get close to. >> yeah. but, see, that's part of the problem. if you think about what it is that people do who are in the clandestine service, the whole purpose of them is not to sit behind walls. i mean, if they're good at this, they need to be able to get out into the streets. they need to get very, very close to people, because the whole intent here is to either acquire information or take that information and analyze it and sinth they size it and come up with answers from it. if you sit in the united states
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or in afghanistan and never get your feet dirty, then all of a sudden you're basically useless. that's what makes this hard. for the future, to address your question, what they have to do is continue to get into the field, to get into the cities, to get closer to the pak border to understand what's going on, to understand what drives the taliban and i think most importantly to find a way to give the people of afghanistan an alternative to the taliban. that is critical here and really what comes next. >> gary, there's a report by the associated press that the person responsible for the suicide bombing -- we haven't been able to independently verify this -- may have been in the process of being courted as an informant, might have been the first time on this forward operating base and he was not searched on the way in. does that sound like standard operating procedure to you? >> that would be very unusual. any time i handled volunteers or walk-ins, we would conduct a physical search. you'll have to wait for an investigation. three years ago in afghanistan
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at one prison, we had a situation where one of the guards at a facility, his family was kidnapped. the taliban said, look, we want you to kill the commanding officer, it's a u.s. full colonel or we'll kill your family. he of course killed that full colonel in the u.s. army. people take hostages. there's all sorts of reasons and rational for these attacks that may go beyond just the normal fact they came out of a madras or whatever. >> gary berntsen, jack rice, thanks for your time tonight. >> thank you. coming up, it was an historic year in politics. the inauguration of the nation's first black president. we're going to look back at the year in politics. and 2009 ticking away. hundreds of thousands of people already in times square. we're going to look toward 2010 with a big party. stay with us. have you guys seen this new "avatar" trailer ?
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2010 just about 44 1/2 hours away on the east coast. so we're going to spend some time looking back at a momentous year. 2009 began with an historic
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presidential inauguration but quickly moved into a painful slide in presidential popularity. president obama headlines candy crowley's look at the highs and lows of politics in 2009. >> reporter: it was the moment of 2009 changing the face of the american presidency. >> i barack hussain obama solemnly swear. >> reporter: the new president began with a 75% approval rating, considerable capital he used to create more history. >> we've begun the essential work of keeping the american dream alive in our time. >> reporter: it was one for the books, a massive $787 billion stimulus plan to fuel a failed economy, a huge victory for the neophyte president and the flash point for an emerging political voice. >> president obama, can you hear us now? >> reporter: the t.e.a. party people were first out in force on tax day. an umbrella group of furious
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fiscal conservatives, they protested big government spending and, by august, big brother overreach. the t.e.a. party at town halls. >> wait a minute. >> reporter: they were as effective as they were loud. the right left for dead at the site of the 2008 campaign trail stirred, sometimes a bit too vocally. >> you lie! >> reporter: it was that kind of year, bare-knuckled politics, nation-defining moments. >> i am an ordinary person who has been blessed with extraordinary opportunities and experiences. >> reporter: the president wrote more history with the nomination of the supreme court's first latina justice and he saluted history after the death of senator fed kennedy, a political tour de force, one of the most accomplished lawmakers of the 20th century. >> the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dreams shall never die.
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>> reporter: beyond history, there were the politics of the moment. the president made nice at a beer summit with the harvard professor and the cambridge cop. and he won a nobel peace prize even he didn't think he'd earned. it wasn't always about the president. >> only dead fish go with the flow. >> reporter: who could quit their job as colorfully as sarah palin who left her first term in office. she wrote a best seller, slammed the mccain aides for bungling a 2008 campaign and laughed all the way to the bank. not laughing -- >> i won't begin in any particular spot. >> reporter: two family value conservatives, south carolina governor mark sanford and nevada senator john ensign. it looked like presidential material in january and toast by december. >> last year, i had an affair. i violated the vows of my marriage. >> i've been unfaithful to my
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wife. >> reporter: despite diminished numbers and some boys behaving badly, it turns out the republican party did not die this year. the gop won governor seats in virginia and new jersey. and the president, who enjoyed in february the approval of three out of four americans had dropped by more than 20 points in december. so ring out the old, ring in the new and strap yourself in. 2010 is an election year. candy crowley, cnn, washington. >> jody is here to talk more about the momentous year. "time" magazine, washington correspondent, jane newton small. >> start with the president now 11 months into his first year in office. obviously some highs and lows. what do you think the highs were, from your perspective? >> well, certainly inauguration, as candy said. it was an amazing moment, the inauguration of the first african-american president. he passed in the short amount of time a huge amount of legislation right off the get-go. you had an expansion of state health insurance plans for
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children. you had historic lilly ledbetter equal pay for women pass. the stimulus passed, the budget. they were sprinting right out of gate, and then hit health care and that's become kind of this giant hurdle they have yet to overcome which will reach into 2010 it looks like. >> don't mean to go straight from the highs to the lows. but you bring up first african-american president. race has definitely been a big issue. it was during the campaign. it continues to be during the presidency. you weren't too hot on how he handled the so-called beer summit. why? >> well, i mean, it's one of those things that -- like the beer summit or -- that you -- he really doesn't need to get involved in these things and i think he didn't realize in the first six months the power of the presidency, the sort of megaphone of the oval office and he would answer questions and say things that he didn't need to say and get himself into these problems that he didn't necessarily need to get into. it's a bit like, for example, the trip to copenhagen to push
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for the olympics in chicago that was doomed. they obviously lost the first round of bidding on that trip. it's another thing where he doesn't realize the sort of office -- the way the office should be handled and still feeling his way out on those things. >> when you look at, you talk about that trip to copenhagen where he came back empty handed. you want to make sure if you're a president, you have a reasonably assured chance of success. but contrast where he is at home and where he was with, say, the copenhagen olympic announcement and where he was as a candidate when he gave that speech in berlin before those hundreds of thousands of people. how does so much change in a year? >> well, i mean, look, certainly one of the things that has changed overnight with the election of barack obama is the way we're perceived abroad. he had another high moment of the year was the historic speech that he gave in cairo. and he has done a lot of reaching out, reaching across the aisle, talking to different world leaders. some say perhaps he's a little too easy to take the blame for
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things. but he has certainly changed the way america is perceived around the world in the last year. and he continues to do so. we've gone from the country that was pretty much universally loathed to a country now where people admire him. >> i think he's done that not only internationally but also here in the united states. in many ways, invigorating americans when it comes to politics and the presidency. so, jane, let me ask you, pushing forward, what do you think his biggest challenge is going to be next year? >> well, certainly health care remains a major hurdle. and they had hoped to try to finish it before the state of the union, which is traditionally the last week of january or the first week of july -- ory. the last week of january, first week of february. it looks unlikely and looks like it will happen sometime in february or early march. as soon as they're done with health care, democrats have really been dying to get on to jobs and start talking about how they've prevented the next great
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depression, how they've helped create or save all of these jobs, because they feel that's going to be the major issue for the 2010 elections and where they need to focus their attention. >> national security, though, has suddenly jumped back on the plate. we weren't talking about 9/11. now that's all everybody is talking about. how will that affect him? >> absolutely. in the wake of 9/11, for example, we passed the patriot act. we've got patriot act reauthorization coming up still on the plate for this year. that will certainly be an issue that people will be talking about. and there's a lot of -- there's still going to be a lot of debate about the war in afghanistan coming forward, too. we're sending a big surge of troops coming up in the next year. there's going to be a lot of talk about time line for withdrawals and what we're going to do there and when we are going to get out. coming up, we're live in times square where, you can probably say probably about a million people already gathering to watch the famous ball drop at the stroke of midnight. we're going to be watching it, too. we hope you join us.
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